Hong Kong’s Apple Daily vows to fight on after arrest of Jimmy Lai

Hong Kong’s Apple Daily tabloid has responded with defiance to the arrest of owner Jimmy Lai under a new national security law imposed by Beijing, promising to “fight on” in a front-page headline above an image of Lai being detained..

Readers queued from the early hours to get a copy of the pro-democracy paper a day after police raided its offices and took Lai into detention, the highest-profile arrest so far under the national security law.

The front page headline read: “Apple Daily must fight on.”

More than 500,000 copies were printed, up from the usual 100,000, the paper said on its website.

Dozens of people queued for the paper in the working-class neighbourhood of Mong Kok as early as 2:00am. Some vendors said they sold out during the morning rush-hour.

“What the police did yesterday interfered with press freedom brutally,” said 45-year-old Kim Yau as she bought a copy.

“All Hong Kongers with a conscience have to support Hong Kong today, support Apple Daily.”

Lai was detained over suspected collusion with foreign forces as about 200 police searched the newspaper’s offices, collecting 25 boxes of evidence.

On Monday night, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was “deeply troubled” by Lai’s arrest “under Hong Kong’s draconian National Security Law.”

“Further proof that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) has eviscerated Hong Kong’s freedoms and eroded the rights of its people,” Pompeo said in a Twitter post.

Separately, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said the arrest of Lai and a number of others was an effort to intimidate pro-democracy and opposition figures and suppress independent media.

Shares in Lai’s media company, Next Digital, which publishes Apple Daily, soared on Monday as online pro-democracy forums called on investors to buy shares to show support.

Mainland-born Lai, who was smuggled into Hong Kong on a fishing boat when he was a penniless 12-year-old, has been one of the most prominent democracy activists in the Chinese-ruled city and an ardent critic of Communist Party rule in Beijing.

His arrest comes amid a crackdown against pro-democracy opposition in Hong Kong which has drawn international condemnation and raised fears for the freedoms promised by Beijing when the former British colony returned to China in 1997.

The sweeping new security law imposed on 30 June punishes anything Beijing considers secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday called Lai a “patriot” and said his arrest showed that Beijing had “eviscerated” Hong Kong’s freedoms and eroded the rights of its people.

Beijing has in the past labelled Lai a “traitor.”

With Reuters

The Guardian

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